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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Counsels of perfection

Counsels of perfection

A recent critique of the US dietary guidelines, which made some very good points about the failure to recommend that people stop eating processed foods, suggested that the phrase in the dietary guidelines “Consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day” be replaced with “Eat natural foods, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts and seeds and the natural sodium contained therein.” We have to disagree with this; natural foods (unless they include a large quantity of feta cheese and salted fish) may not supply adequate intakes of sodium for many; and, if people in New Zealand eat locally grown natural foods, and don't like or can't afford seafood, those who don't live in coastal areas may not have adequate intakes of iodine. We asked one of this paper’s authors about the iodine question (he lives in the USA) and he replied that pastured eggs could supply one’s iodine needs. This may well be the case, but, with all due respect as these are authors we usually agree with, and we certainly agree with the bulk of their critique, this part is not good enough for dietary guidelines or public health advice.

The phrase “counsel of perfection” comes from the early Church. All that was necessary for salvation was to follow the 10 commandments, but those who wanted to be perfect were counselled to also practice chastity, obedience, and poverty (in the sense of absolute charity). These things are desirable, but for practical purposes cannot be demanded of the faithful. In nutrition, there are also commandments, and there are counsels of perfection. Commandments include adequate intakes of the essential minerals, vitamins, and trace elements, protein, fats, fibre and energy, not eating too much, and in recent times eating the right amount of carbohydrate for one's metabolic type, not eating too often, and avoiding or limiting sugar and highly processed foods.

Counsels of perfection, on the other hand, include eating free-range eggs, organic fruits and vegetables, non-GMO produce, pastured meat, freedom-farmed pork, fresh produce rather than canned or frozen, fermented bread, sprouted grains, and so on. All of these things are desirable for various reasons, most are a change for the better nutritionally compared to the alternative, but, in an imperfect world where people struggle to make ends meet and time is tight, none should be considered essential for good health at a population level.

2 comments:

Robert Simms said...

"Counsels of perfection" in the guise of superfoods is discussed at 37:50 in this interview with Damon Gameau -- similar conclusion.
http://theprimalshift.com.au/2014/09/

Passthecream said...

If that's perfection then I am a miserable sinner! So many conflicts need resolving at meal time between economy, health, taste, and everyone else's requirements. Interesting that you should mention salt however. I have recently increased my intake of salt back to pre-medical advice levels and together with an increase in water consumption this has cured my chronic muscle cramps.